Things started out rather slowly and most had already chalked it up as another loss by halftime. But the Chiefs were able to get back in the game with some timely defensive stops, a huge game by running back Jamaal Charles and a dominant performance by outside linebacker Justin Houston.
Houston was in the backfield to disrupt Saints' quarterback Drew Brees all day long. He totaled three sacks, four quarterback hits and even deflected two passes. The young pass-rusher now has four sacks on the season and has racked up a total of 9.5 sacks over his last eight regular season games.
While there is no question of just how important Tamba Hali is to the Chiefs, Houston's emergence will only bode well for the entire defense going forward.
When asked what the ceiling is for the Hali-Houston combination in Kansas City, BJ Kissel of Arrowhead Pride had this to say:
Houston fell to the third round of the 2011 NFL draft due to a positive marijuana test at the combine and not because of his potential on the field. After seeing what he has done in his short time in the league, the Chiefs might have struck gold.
Houston is easily general manager Scott Pioli's best draft decision since coming to Kansas City prior to the 2009 season.
Houston can't be expected to reproduce his performance against the Saints on a weekly basis, but the fact that he was able to shine and put the defense on his back could be a turning point for the Chiefs.
Having two dominant pass-rushers again revives memories of Derrick Thomas and Neil Smith, who terrorized opposing quarterbacks in the 1990s.
While Hali and Houston have a long way to go before equaling those two, there is certainly enough talent on the Chiefs defense for some of that success to return to Kansas City.
Let's not anoint Houston the Chiefs savior just yet. But having another player—along with Hali, Derrick Johnson, Brandon Flowers and Eric Berry—who forces the opposition to think twice about where it can attack Kansas City's defense brings back some of the excitement for the 2012 season that might have waned after the first two games.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!